Blog: Leonie BarrieReturns policies

Leonie Barrie | 7 December 2004

Apparel retailers apparently lose some $16 billion in fraud each year to shoppers who never intend to keep the merchandise or wear it once with the tags tucked under the armpits and then try to take it back for a refund. So software to help retailers track these serial returners has a key role to play in stamping out fraud. One such product, the Verify-1 from Return Exchange, could also help stores deny returns to those who make a habit of abusing their returns policies.

For instance, when a customer wants to return an item, the sales clerk swipes his or her identification, logging the shopper's name, address and birthdate into a database. The program records details about the transaction, such as the store number, the amount of the return, the date, time and item description.

If the return is authorised, processing continues. If a pattern of unusual return activity is detected, a decline code is sent back to the terminal, and the consumer is directed to contact customer service at The Return Exchange.

Retailers like Guess, Limited and Sports Authority are said to have already signed up for the service. But is there a chance it could backfire? After all, some genuine shoppers, perhaps those strapped for time, favour retailers where items can be returned no questions asked. Are they going to be blacklisted?

On the other hand, the returns policy at some stores is far too lenient. Marks & Spencer, for example, is well-known for its ‘no quibble’ refund policy and a loophole which currently allows customers to buy goods at sale prices and return them later, receiving credit vouchers for the original price. There isn’t a time restriction on returned goods either.

Maybe there’s a middle ground: if stores want to get tough with consumers who abuse the system, perhaps they should simply demand receipts and refuse to take back garments that have obviously been used or damaged.


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